Paul Hawkyard will have the onerous duty of making sure the last train leaves King’s Cross Theatre on time, when he takes over as Mr Perks in the Olivier Award-winning production of Mike Kenny’s stage adaptation of E. Nesbit’s novel The Railway Children – Live on Stage from 23 November 2016 until 8 January 2017, when this critically and publicly acclaimed show must come to an end. This follows more than two glorious years of performances at King’s Cross Theatre, where it opened on 14 January 2015, following previews from 16 December 2014.
Paul Hawkyard is best known for the popular Cbeebies programme Old Jack’s Boat, in which he plays the character Ernie Starboard and co-stars with Bernard Cribbins, the original Mr Perks. His theatre credits include A Christmas Carol (Rose Theatre), War Horse (New London/National Theatre), Birdsong (The Comedy Theatre), Oliver! (London Palladium), Mamma Mia! (Prince of Wales Theatre), South Pacific (National Theatre), Les Misérables (Palace Theatre), Jesus Christ Superstar (The Lyceum Theatre) and Miss Saigon (Theatre Royal Drury Lane).
Also in the cast of The Railway Children are Caroline Harker as Mother, Felicity Houlbrooke as Bobbie, Jack Hardwick as Peter, Louise Calf as Phyllis, Lindsay Allen as Mrs Perks, Peter Gardiner as Doctor/Butler, Connie Hyde as Mrs Viney, Shaun McCourt as Jim, Blair Plant as Father/Schepansky and Moray Treadwell as the Old Gentleman, with Adam Collier, Helen Brampton, Alan Drake and Julie Gilby. The children’s ensemble is made up of four teams of ten children aged between 8 and 16.
A purpose built 1,000-seat theatre, complete with a railway track and platforms, and with a state of the art air conditioning and heating system, was specially created for this production on King’s Boulevard, behind King’s Cross Station, a site which has been loaned to the production for the duration of the run by Google. The York Theatre Royal production, which is in association with the National Railway Museum, features a live steam locomotive and a vintage carriage, originally built in 1896.
Directed by Damian Cruden, the Artistic Director of York Theatre Royal, with design by Joanna Scotcher, lighting by Richard G. Jones, music by Christopher Madin and sound by Craig Vear, Mike Kenny’s adaptation of The Railway Children was first produced by York Theatre Royal at the National Railway Museum, York, where it enjoyed two sell-out and critically acclaimed seasons in 2008 and 2009. The production then opened at Waterloo Station in the former Eurostar terminal in July 2010, where it again played two critically acclaimed sell-out seasons and won the 2011 Olivier Award for Best Entertainment, before opening in Toronto in 2011 in a temporary theatre built at the base of CN Tower in Roundhouse Park.
The Railway Children tells the story of Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis, three children whose lives change dramatically when their father is mysteriously taken away. They move from London to a cottage in rural Yorkshire with their mother, where they befriend the local railway porter, Perks, and embark on a magical journey of discovery, friendship and adventure. But the mystery remains – where is Father, and is he ever coming back?
2016 marks the 110th anniversary of the publication of Edith Nesbit’s much loved classic children’s book The Railway Children, which has subsequently been adapted for the stage and screen, most famously in the 1970 film version directed by Lionel Jeffries and starring Jenny Agutter, Bernard Cribbins, Dinah Sheridan and Sally Thomsett.
The production is presented in London by Tristan Baker & Charlie Parsons for Runaway Entertainment, Oliver Royds for BOS Productions and Sue Scott Davison, in association with York Theatre Royal and the National Railway Museum.